Solicitor General Noel Francisco would become the acting deputy attorney general at the Department of Justice if Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein is fired. The 49-year-old Francisco is the third-ranking Senate-confirmed official in the Justice Department, behind Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who has recused himself from the Russia investigation, and Rosenstein.
If Rosenstein is fired, Francisco would be put in a position to oversee special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russia’s interference into the 2016 election. But Francisco could also recuse himself because of his ties to Jones Day, a law firm that has represented the Trump campaign. If Francisco recused himself, the next person in line would be Steven Engel, the Assistant Attorney General for the Office of Legal Counsel.
Here’s what you need to know about Noel Francisco:
1. Francisco Was Sworn in as Solicitor General in September 2017
Noel Francisco was sworn in as Solicitor General of the United States on September 19, 2017, according to the Justice Department’s website. He was nominated to the position by President Donald Trump in March 2017. The Senate voted 50 to 47 to confirm his appointment to the position.
The solicitor general and his office is responsible for representing the United States before the U.S. Supreme Court. Two of his mentors told NPR last year that the solicitor general position was Francisco’s “dream job.”
Francisco is known as a skilled and talented lawyer, but some, including Trump’s allies, have questioned whether he would be the best person to oversee the special counsel’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election. ”
I can tell you, Noel Francisco, very talented lawyer, but to be Solicitor General, you have a specific skill set and running a Russia collusion investigation is probably not one of them,” former New Jersey governor Chris Christie told ABC News in April.
2. He Had Been a Partner at Jones Day, a Firm That Represented the Trump Campaign, Where He Argued Several Times Before the Supreme Court
According to the site Above the Law, Francisco is a former partner at Jones Day, a top law firm. DOJ’s bio for Francisco says “prior to joining the Justice Department, he was a partner in the Washington, DC office of Jones Day, where he was the chair of the Firm’s Government Regulation Practice.”
Several Jones Day alums have joined the Trump administration. The firm represented the Trump campaign and as a result, Francisco could step aside from any involvement in the Russia investigation and from overseeing special counsel Robert Mueller because of a conflict of interest.
While at Jones Day, says the DOJ bio, Francisco “appeared several times before the Supreme Court, including in McDonnell v. United States, which involved the meaning of “official act” under federal bribery statutes; Zubik v. Burwell, which involved the application of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act to regulations related to insurance coverage for contraception; and NLRB v. Noel Canning, which involved the Constitution’s recess appointment power.”
The bio says he has also “argued numerous cases in the lower federal and state courts on a wide range of constitutional, civil, and criminal matters.”
The Federalist Society said he also represented “the Free Enterprise Fund in a successful challenge to the constitutionality of the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board; and the International Coal Group in connection with a congressional investigation into the January 2, 2006 Sago Mine accident in Sago, West Virginia. He also advises clients in matters involving the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act, the Alien Tort Statute, and the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS).”
3. Francisco Worked in the Department of Justice During President George W. Bush’s Administration & Was on His Legal Team During the 2000 Florida Recount
From 2001 to 2003, says DOJ, “Francisco served in the Office of Counsel to the President as Associate Counsel to President George W. Bush, and from 2003 to 2005 he served as Deputy Assistant Attorney General in the U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Legal Counsel.”
Politico called Francisco a “seasoned Republican attorney” and said he once worked with Ted Cruz “on the legal team supporting George W. Bush during the 2000 Florida recount.”
4. He Studied at the University of Chicago & Brandeis University Before Clerking for Justice Antonin Scalia
Noel Francisco graduated from the University of Chicago with a bachelor’s degree in 1991 and then attended the University of Chicago Law School, graduating with honors in 1996, according to his Department of Justice biography. Francisco has also studied at Brandeis University, according to his Linkedin profile.
After law school, Francisco clerked for Judge J. Michael Luttig of the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit before clerking for Associate Justice Antonin Scalia of the United States Supreme Court, according to the Justice Department.
5. Francisco Is the Son of a Filipino Immigrant & Adopted a Daughter From Russia With His Wife
Noel Francisco grew up in Oswego, New York, according to his Department of Justice biography.
He is the son of a Filipino immigrant, Nemesio Francisco, who moved to the U.S. with little money and not speaking much English, according to Syracuse.com. His father died at 53 of cancer after becoming a beloved doctor in Oswego. His mother, Therese Francisco, still lives in Oswego.
He told The Post-Standard in 2012 he learned about politics while in his high school’s band. “I always say the first political lesson I learned was in high school,” Francisco told the newspaper. “There were more people in band than in sports, so by consolidating the band group, you could negotiate what you needed. You also could learn a lot about people from band because it was such as diverse collection of kids.”
Francisco lives in Washington D.C. with his wife, Cynthia Francisco, and their two daughters. According to The Washington Post, Francisco adopted one of his daughters, Caroline, from Russia. She was born near Chechyna and Francisco and his wife adopted her in 2002 while he was working in the Bush administration. The Post wrote at the time, “Caroline attended the East Room event and had her picture taken with her parents at the press secretary’s lectern. Francisco says he and his wife decided they liked international adoption ‘to show we’re citizens of the world.'”